Unconditional love, according to Wikipedia, is affection without any limitations, no bounds and is unchanging. For instance, the love known between a parent and a child. Ben Jonson, a dramatist, poet and actor during the 1600’s, wrote a poem that signified unconditional love (Biography of Ben Jonson). Jonson’s famous poem “On My First Son”, vividly expresses the love he felt for his son and how he learns to cope with his son’s death. One would think that unconditional love provides complete happiness but in this literary analysis I will demonstrate the “bad” side of love through Jonson’s heartbreak and loss.
Jonson expresses a declaration of love in the opening line of the poem by referring to his son as his right hand and his pride and joy. He is bidding him farewell by saying “Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy"(line 1). Apparently, he has lost his son to death at the young age of seven years old. As the poem continues Jonson is seeking meaning for this tragic loss. He begins his search by blaming himself . He is arguing that he had too much hope for his son and now he is suffering the loss of his son as a result of his own sin. He realizes that the boy was only a loan and now he must be returned.
Jonson cries out “O could I lose all father now"(line 5)! His emotional status transforms from sadness to a state of relief and understanding. He questions his grief by saying “Will man lament the state he should envy,/To have soon ‘scaped world’s and flesh’s rage,/And, if no other misery, yet age ?"(lines 6-8). Why mourn when the son that he loved so much is escaping disease, pain and the misery of old age? Jonson is able to find consolation in this tragedy knowing that his son is forever safe (Delbanco & Cheuse, 2012).
Jonson is a very proud father. The last three lines of the poem reflect on his pride, however we also see that the writer will never be the same again. In line ten, Jonson refers to his son as “his best piece of poetry” and he wishes his son peaceful rest. Thus Jonson’s role as a father will henceforth never be the same again. He became co-dependent on the love that he felt for his son, therefore being too comfortable with life. As a result, he now vows to never feel this type of unconditional love again.
Unconditional love is affection without limitations. Ben Jonson lost his son at an early age. His love was challenged by loss, his own sin and by the meaning of fatherhood. Jonson is able to let go of some of the grief knowing that his precious son will never be faced with sickness, pain or the misery of old age. However, Jonson remains a changed man. Fatherhood will remain a mystery, however this example of unconditional love will never change. “On My First Son” is an excellent example of the “bad” side of love because the poem reflects heartbreak and loss.
Biography of ben jonson. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://poemhunter.com/ben-jonson/biography/
Delbanco, N., & Cheuse, A. (2012). Literature craft and voice. (2nd ed., p. 679). New York: McGraw-Hill.